- The Story of Stone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism of Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and The Journey to the West (review)
- China Review International
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 1, Number 2, Fall 1994
- pp. 278-280
- View Citation
- Additional Information
278 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 Jing Wang. The Story ofStone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism o/Dream ofthe Red Chamber, Water Margin, and The Journey to the West. Durham, North Carolina and London: Duke University Press, 1992. x, 347 pp. Hardcover $37.50. Paperback $18.95. In the past decade, significant attempts have been made to relate recent developments in literary theory to studies of Chinese literature—the work of Pauline Yu comes readily to mind in this regard.1 Wang Jing's The Story ofStone is an erudite contribution to this area of work which deals in detail and at a general level with the poststructuralist concept of "intertextuality" and, specifically, with how this concept might illuminate our reading of stone imagery in three famous Chinese novels. Professor Wang brings to this task an impressive and extensive knowledge of works byWestern theorists such as Kristeva, Foucault, Barthes, Genette, Jameson, Greimas, and Derrida as well as Aie full range of the relevant Sinological studies. The result is a valuable book that will be stimulating and rewarding for most students of classical Chinese literature and poetics. Starting with Julia Kristeva's insight that "no text is ever completely free of other texts," Wang argues that intertextuality "is a universal phenomenon that defines the communicative relationships between one text and another, and, particularly , in the case of age-old writing traditions, between a text and its context" (p. 2). Drawing on A. J. Greimas' theory of structural semantics, Wang constructs a mythological dictionary of stone lore and derives from it "certain vantage points for interpreting the stone imagery that emerges" in the Airee Chinese novels (p. 23). The chapter titled "The Mythological Dictionary of Stone," which examines sources of stone myths and stone lore in Chinese culture, is a welcome contribution to studies of Chinese mythology and folklore. Students of the history of Chinese gardens will also find it a very useful work that can be read with profit in conjunction with lohn Hay's Kernels ofEnergy, Bones ofEarth: The Rock in Chinese Art.2 By drawing on her mythological dictionary, Wang was able to articulate a series of nuanced and complex readings of aspects of the three Chinese novels in the remaining chapters of her work. Overall, students of Chinese novels will find much to ponder and admire in Wang's study, both in its detailed remarks and in its careful articulation of the methodological considerations involved in relating contemporary theory to classical Chinese materials. Poststructuralists will appreciate Wang's understanding of© 1004 bv University ^e Ulmts 0^dogmatic structuralism in trying to construct her mythological dicofHawai 'i Presstionary as an open-ended entity rather than as a complete and systematic interpretative model with "an absolute generative power" (p. 23). Reviews 279 It is the broader theoretical project announced in the opening chapter of Wang's work, "Intertextuality and Interpretation," that will perhaps be most provocative and controversial for its specialist readers. Here, Wang attempts to displace the older concept of"allusion" with that of"intertextuality" in fhe study of Chinese literature generally and explores specific ramifications witii regard to the study of stone imagery in the three Chinese novels. The study of"allusion" is tied to authorial intentions in traditional criticism, and she points out that "intertextuality" is a broader conception based on the notion that "two texts may converge without there arising the question of influence or authorial intention" (p. 6). Professor Wang is fully aware that her work is located in a contested field and at times advances her claims in a strident manner. A brief (thirry-three-page) and challenging theoretical text that opens up a lengtiiy substantive study perhaps inevitably raises more questions than it can be reasonably be expected to answer, and one gets the impression that Professor Wang must have much more to say about her theoretical agenda. Wang distinguishes "allusion" from "recontextualization" in that "the practitioners of the former cite the reference to the past in order to internalize literary models (and, more often than not, to lend prestige and authority to their own texts), rather than bringing to our consciousness the specific historicity...